SWAT: ‘Old man in new skin?’

SWAT
EndSARS, EndSWAT protesters in Warri.

Following incessant outcries by many Nigerians to disband the embattled Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), the Nigerian government was forced to cave into the demands of the people because the voice of the people they say, is the voice of God. Hence, this necessitated the move by the Federal Government under the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari to look out for possible solutions in a bid to address the continuous agitations by these young Nigerians who are aggrieved as a result of the havoc wrecked by these notorious group of officers.

Recall the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, announced on Tuesday that the police have set up a Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team, in place of SARS – a development that is not widely accepted by Nigerians.

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By a way of introduction, SWAT is a unit of the United States’ police that is trained to respond only to high crime situations and to disperse rioters with brute force. The move by the IGP to institute such a unit in about 24 hours after SARS was disbanded stoked the concern of Nigerians that the government is taking them for granted.

It’s no gainsaying Nigerians are demanding the dissolution of every tactical unit that has been roaming the streets and are complicit in the atrocities that SARS was spearheading, and they don’t want any of them replaced.

However, the recent development that brought in SWAT as a replacement for SARS is seen as “from the frying pan to fire” situation whereby the police force is allegedly claimed to be playing on the intelligence of the people because of its past record of being untruthful and unreliable in the face of critical issues of this magnitude.

In reaction, the Inspector-General of Police ordered the former SARS operatives to report to the force headquarters for debriefing and psychological evaluation within a stipulated period of weeks.

But this new directive never goes well with many of the protesters who believe SWAT would be made up of the disbanded SARS officials as many even see the new unit as “SARS With Another Title”, hence, the reason they have continued with the demonstration.

In a bid to assure the protesters of its readiness to maintain a professionally-oriented and service-driven unit with the newly reformed SARS, the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba in a series of tweet opined that; “Mandate of the new TACTICAL team is strictly restricted to; Response to robbery attacks, Response to scenes of weapon-related crimes, Rescue operations, [and] Special operations involving high profile criminals.”

He added; “No personnel of the defunct SARS will be selected to be part of the new TACTICAL team. Operations of the new TACTICAL team will be strictly intelligence-driven.

“Members of the new TACTICAL team will by no means embark on routine patrols. Members of the new TACTICAL team are barred from an indiscriminate and unlawful search of phones, laptops and other smart devices.”

SWAT: An existing unit in NSCDC

In 2013, the Commandant General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), Dr. Ade Abolurin, set up a SWAT unit for the Corps aimed at curtailing extraordinary cases of crimes in Nigeria.

The NSCDC SWAT is barely heard of since then, mainly because some units are already doing the same work. This has constituted a major concern by Nigerians who see same story forming bedrock for the newly reformed SARS under police, especially if things are not put into proper perspective.

Regardless, the reform Nigerians are asking for entails overhauling the entire police structure to reflect service-driven orientation, not setting up a new unit filled with the same cancerous elements in the police, and giving it a new name.

The question begging for answers is, can we really hold on to the words of the Force considering its

antecedent promises in the reformation of SARS to FSARS or is it going to be the same old story where the common man would only have to depend on God in the long run because of their lack of faith in the former? This among many others should be reflected on if we truly crave for a better policing where human rights are respected and protected. We cannot continue to put old wine in a new bottle if we must improvise and come up with new methods of doing things for the betterment of the citizenry at large. It’s high time the Nigeria Police Force looked inward to a lasting solution that would, in turn, bring solace to the Nigeria populace who have been long-suffering under the brutality of some bad eggs in the force. A better approach to this situation is to jettison the ills in the system by bringing to bear a renewed mandate of ensuring those recruited into the unit are psychologically balanced and worthy of good character, not those who constitute a nuisance to the system and in turn, tarnish the image of the force.

In summary, the Inspector-General of Police should work closely with other key agencies in the implementation of a better feedback mechanism that would be monitoring the activities of the newly reformed unit so as to checkmate their excesses where applicable. The agency should also engage the unit on regular basis through training, retraining, and other human capacity programmes aimed at creating consciousness of good service and delivery in the minds of the members of the Corps. By this, we would have a better policing devoid of unprofessionalism and incompetency.

Arogbonlo Israel writes from Akure

Vanguard News

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